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Middle-Grade Books From the '80s That Are Still Worth Reading

Share part of your own childhood with these classic books from the '80s

Tina Cha
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Published on: October 16, 2020

Middle-Grade Books From the '80s That Are Still Worth Reading

Book cover: ‘Locked in Time’ by Lois Duncan

‘Locked in Time’ by Lois Duncan

Back in the mid-‘80s, Lois Duncan’s books were widely shared among my classmates. Duncan’s famous teen novel “I Know What You Did Last Summer” spawned a popular movie franchise. Her books often left teenaged main characters in peril, pursued by killers while attempting to unravel plot-twisting mysteries. In “Locked in Time,” protagonist Nore Roberts, fresh from boarding school and still mourning the death of her mother, travels to Louisiana to visit her dad and his new bride. She can tell immediately that something is wrong with the family. I’ll spoil it here, because the hints Duncan provides early in the storytelling, while perhaps not as obvious to me as a tween, were quite obvious as an adult: Her stepfamily doesn’t age and has been around for generations. Nore’s goal is to convince her father that something is amiss and to escape from this rural backcountry without losing her life.

Duncan has done a good job updating her books. In the revised version published in 2011, Nore communicates with her dad over email instead of by writing letters, and she has a cell phone (however, there’s no service in the backcountry where the family estate is located — how convenient). The slight edits help bridge the story to a modern audience, but it’s the genre itself (thrills and chills!) that will resonate for those who love to be scared. Most of the story takes place in Louisiana, specifically on a former plantation. References to Creole culture and the deplorable history of slavery and slave owners is brought up but not explored in depth.

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